Birmingham Salon

Slavery and Anti-Slavery in British History

Takes place on Thursday 30thNovember 2017, 7.30pm to 9.00pm, at The Island Bar, 14-16 Suffolk Street, B1 1LT

Entrance fee: £5

For centuries Britain’s record as the leading opponent of slavery has been part of the country’s identity, and its claim to stand for justice and liberty. Indeed, groups and individuals in Birmingham played a prominent role in the anti-slavery movement. But more recently historians have been pointing to Britain’s history of slave-trading rather than that of anti-slavery. Once-lauded British heroes like Admiral Nelson and Cecil Rhodes are today pilloried as enslavers. Cities that once made their wealth from slave-trading, today get the tourists in to museums and exhibits decrying the slave trade. 

Though the slave trade has long been abolished, modern-day campaigners keep re-discovering it. 
‘Slavery’ today is used to mean all kinds of coerced work, from that of prostitutes to live-in maids – a powerful rhetorical device in framing contemporary campaigns. In the arts, the appetite for films, plays and novels about slavery is stronger than ever. Something about the slave as a figure seems strikingly relevant today. In this Salon, historian James Heartfield will try to shed light on the appetite for slave histories in the present day. 

James Heartfield is the author of a number of historical books about the British Empire, the most recent being The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society: A History

Recommended Readings:
Olugosa, David. Black and British: A Forgotten History. Macmillan, 2016
Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. Nabu Press, 2011